Ro­driguez sign­ing pay­ing off for Chelsea

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY STEVE DOU­GLAS

Pe­dro Ro­driguez was signed by Chelsea to in­ject some life into the English cham­pi­ons af­ter their lack­lus­ter start to the sea­son.

He took 30 min­utes to do just that.

The Spain for­ward scored one goal and set up another in his first half-hour of Premier League football, set­ting Chelsea on its way to a 3-2 win over West Bromwich Al­bion and a first vic­tory of its ti­tle de­fense.

“How many top play­ers come to Eng­land and don’t per­form im­me­di­ately,” Chelsea man­ager Jose Mour­inho said of Pe­dro, who joined for US$33 mil­lion from Barcelona. “Peo­ple ask if he is the right player, can he adapt? ... It’s very nice for him to per­form the way he did.”

Cri­sis averted for Chelsea, which had opened with one point from two games, but there’s still a way to go to catch first-place Manch­ester City.

City earned its third straight win this sea­son — and a club record­e­qual­ing ninth vic­tory in a row — by beat­ing Ever­ton 2-0 thanks to sec­ond-half goals by Alek­san­dar Ko­larov and Samir Nasri. With eight goals scored and none con­ceded, it is an omi­nous start by a team look­ing for a third ti­tle in five sea­sons.

“You see a team that are at their very, very best,” Ever­ton man­ager Roberto Mancini said of City, “when they only need half a chance to hurt you. They are re­ally en­joy­ing their mo­ment.”

Liver­pool is the only other team with a 100 per­cent start, ahead of its match at Ar­se­nal on Mon­day that wraps up the third round of games.

Wat­ford drew 0-0 with Southamp­ton in Sun­day’s other game.

Pe­dro’s bright dis­play over­shad­owed another tough af­ter­noon for his new cap­tain, John Terry. A week af­ter get­ting sub­sti­tuted — for the first time in 177 matches un­der Mour­inho — dur­ing a 3-0 loss at Man City, Terry was sent off against West Brom for a pro­fes­sional foul in the 54th minute when his side was 3-1 ahead.

Chelsea con­ceded al­most straight away but held on com­fort­ably at The Hawthorns, restor­ing some or­der af­ter draw­ing 2-2 at home to Swansea and get­ting over­whelmed by City.

Chelsea goal­keeper

Thibaut Cour­tois saved James Mor­ri­son’s 14th-minute penalty be­fore Pe­dro scored the opener in the 20th, trad­ing passes with Eden Haz­ard and send­ing in a shot that de­flected in­side the near post.

Ten min­utes later, Pe­dro turned provider by driv­ing in a cross-shot that was bun­dled in by a slid­ing Diego Costa at the far post.

West Brom re­duced the deficit through Mor­ri­son, only for Ce­sar Azpilicueta to re­store Chelsea’s two-goal cush­ion by rac­ing onto Costa’s lay-off and slot­ting in a low fin­ish for his first Premier League goal. Spain in­ter­na­tion­als scored all of the visi­tors’ goals.

City fin­ished last sea­son with six straight wins, per­haps keep­ing coach Manuel Pel­le­grini in a job, and has car­ried that run into this cam­paign af­ter spend­ing more than US$150 mil­lion this sum­mer.

Ra­heem Ster­ling — signed for £49 mil­lion (US$76 mil­lion) — has added an ex­tra di­men­sion to City’s at­tack and is pro­vid­ing a dif­fer­ent prob­lem for op­po­si­tion de­fenses, which is al­low­ing oth­ers like David Silva and Yaya Toure to shine.

Silva and Ster­ling were in­volved in the build-up to Ko­larov’s 60thminute opener, with the left back charg­ing up­field and run­ning onto Ster­ling pass to beat Amer­i­can goal­keeper Tim Howard at his near post.

Nasri ex­changed a one-two with Toure be­fore chip­ping Howard from close range for the sec­ond in the 88th.

“What other teams think about our team is not our prob­lem,” Pel­le­grini said when asked if City was mak­ing a state­ment to its ri­vals. “The im­por­tant thing is to be a con­sis­tent team un­til the end.”

AP

West Brom’s Gareth McAu­ley watches as Chelsea’s Radamel Fal­cao, right, takes a shot at the goal dur­ing the English Premier League soc­cer match be­tween West Bromwich Al­bion and Chelsea at the Hawthorns, West Bromwich, Eng­land, Sun­day, Aug. 23.

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